Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jerry Dammers in MOJO, Rhoda Dakar in Vive Le Rock!

Even though it's a fairly unremarkable magazine shop on Madison Avenue in one of Manhattan's wealthiest neighborhoods (I've seen Donald Fagan in there a few times), it carries two music magazines essential to any self-respecting Anglophile: MOJO and Vive Le Rock! (One of the guys behind the counter told me that some record executive who lives nearby asked them to carry these publications, along with NME, so they could keep up on the British music scene.) This month, each magazine is running a feature on a key 2 Tone-era musician: MOJO has a terrific interview with Jerry Dammers (on the occasion of The Specials, More Specials, and In the Studio being reissued in deluxe CD packages), while Vive Le Rock! catches up with Rhoda Dakar (who recently performed at the 2015 London International Ska Festival and released the stellar Rhoda Dakar Sings the Bodysnatchers album--read The Duff Guide to Ska review of it here).

Here are some great excerpts from each piece:

Rhoda Dakar (reminiscing with Andy Peart about The Bodysnatchers' seaside tour with The Specials in the summer of 1980): "What was brilliant about that tour was that the Go-Gos were on it as well. So, for the first and only time in my experience, there were as many women as men on a tour. That was brilliant because it really changed the dynamics of everything. I remember there was a drinking contest, girls against boys. We put up our champion and they put up theirs and we won (laughs). It was really comfortable and we weren't marginalized. It was a crazy tour. All these old seaside venues where people fell through stages which were collapsing and there were times when you could see the sea through the floor."

Jerry Dammers (responding to the comment from Lois Wilson, "You once said your aim with The Specials was nothing short of revolution."): "I spent my time growing up in Coventry in the '60s and '70s seeing the working-class youth bashing each other up, whether it was bashing immigrants or bashing each other at football. It was only a minority, of course, but it did seem like most districts in Coventry had some sort of gang, and some of the pubs were notorious for people glassing each other. The media was winding this up all over the country, so some kids thought that was what they were supposed to do. Meanwhile, the establishment that was actually keeping them down just carried on getting richer like they always had. The hippies wanted to form a better "alternative" society, but that just alienated some people. I wanted to change all of society from within, which was a much harder and more risky thing to try and do. The amazing thing is that it worked at all, even to the small extent that some people say it did. I often meet people who tell me that if it wasn't for The Specials they would have been racists or whatever, and that they turned to more socialist ideas because of The Specials."

Jerry Dammers (responding to the question, "What initially sent you down the left-wards path politically?"): "Well, hopefully that was some sort of intelligence or common sense. The general idea that children are still starving, or dying of preventable diseases, or getting blown to pieces, is not a good thing. Even if there was such a thing as "trickle down" from capitalism, which there never has been, and never will be, what an absolutely horrible idea, that some people are only worthy of what might happen to "trickle down" from the rich."

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